Mary Isokariari, Voice Writer
CAMPAIGNERS ARE lobbying against a discriminatory clause of the Pensions Bill which negatively impacts on elderly Britons who wish to retire to particular countries in Africa or the Caribbean. The Consortium of British Pensioners (ICBP) is continuing its fight to 'unfreeze' state pensions of British expats living abroad.
The group, which represents half a million pensioners around the world, launched a high court legal challenge 10 years ago to remove Clause 20 of the Pensions Bill. As it stands, British nationals who live in Africa, Canada, South America or the Caribbean, or the other 170 countries outside the EU, have their pensions permanently frozen at the date they retired, or when they first arrived in their new home country.
While countries such as Bermuda, Barbados, and Jamaica have a reciprocal agreement allowing them to receive the same annual increases as UK pensioners in line with inflation, those retiring to Trinidad and Tobago, St Lucia and Antigua, for example, will lose out.
ICBP had originally taken the case to the European Court of Human Rights, but the Government successfully argued it would be too expensive to increase pensions for everyone and that helping the poorest pensioners living in the UK was their main priority.
'fighting to right this wrong'
As a bill is now currently going through Parliament, ICBP said: "We're fighting to right this wrong. We believe that all pensioners - no matter where they retire - ought to receive the pension they have paid towards and deserve."
If the amendment passes through the House of Commons, the House of Lords still has to agree before receiving Royal Assent and become law. A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said: "The UK State Pension is payable worldwide but is only up-rated abroad where we have a legal requirement or reciprocal agreement. This has always been the case and people who are considering emigrating abroad should always consider the impact the move could have on their future State Pension entitlement."
The clause affects migrants who helped rebuild post-war Britain and have paid their taxes and National Insurance contributions.
UNFAIR's Sir Peter Bottomley, Conservative MP for Worthing West, is strongly urging the government to rethink the policy as the third reading of the Pensions Bill passes through Parliament. Bottomley said: "It's unfair and unjust. If I retired to Seattle [US], I would get a state pension, but if retired to Vancouver [Canada], I wouldn't. If you look at the countries involved, most of them share war memorials with Britain. It's a question of right and wrong." Independent research from Oxford Economics revealed that emigrating pensioners saved the UK Government £2.3 billion annually - equating to £7 billion over 20 years in health care, age-related benefits, and miscellaneous pension credits. Andrew Tully, the technical director at financial firm MGM Advantage, said: "I think customers don't necessarily know about it, which is an issue. "People move overseas for lots of reasons - for their family or wanting to retire in a particular place, but they are not necessarily thinking [their] pensions would be different in another country." He added: "We are trying to publicise it so people make informed choices."